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Getting One’s Knickers In A Twist On The Clothes Lines


I came across this delightful article in today’s UK Daily Mail online edition.

Basically, the author is exploring the etiquette of hanging your knickers /smalls/tighty whities/panties/undies/big girl pants (etc) on the clothes line. The idea being that some people may be offended by the items and – by inference – cast you in the mould of the neighbourhood floozy for putting your wares on display for God and all the world to see.

It’s mainly focused on the UK, where I suspect some may take a bit stuffier line than in other countries. Apparently some women have had notes through the letterbox asking them not to hang their undies on communal washing lines (in blocks of flats) as it upsets other residents and puts some husbands off their food (!)

I live in the great call-a-spade-a-spade-and-if you-don’t-like-it-too-bloody-bad country of Australia, but I remember as a young girl (waaaay back in the 1970s when dinosaurs walked the earth) my mother insisting that underwear had to be hung on the inside of the rotary clothes line (the good ol’ Hills hoist) with the other clothes on the rows around them, which looking back, I’m assuming had something to do with the neighbours seeing them – we backed onto a big park area and had no back or side fences, so you could see what was going on in the neighbours’ yards. Come to think of it, at least one of my friends of the same age as me still hangs her clothes on the line like that – is this proof that we all eventually turn into our mothers?

These days I live in a house with side and back fences, so it’s not a privacy issue. But I think even if I didn’t, I’m not sure it would change the way I hang clothes on the line – whatever order they come out of the basket works for me.

What do you all think??

When I’ve had a clothes line I did hang underwear *but* there was a substantial separation between me, my neighbors and the road.    The family underwear was fairly generic as well with no unusual colors or skimpy designs that would have acted like a flag to anyone within view.   I personally despise hanging underwear, wash clothes, hankies, and socks on a clothes line because it was so much effort for such a little piece of fabric.   Clothes line work best for sheets, towels, blankets, jeans and cotton shirts and dresses.

That said, I think there is something to be said for  not displaying an intimate article of clothing in shared spaces or communal clothes lines.   I really don’t need to know that my neighbor wears pink, lacy thongs…TMI.  Or that the man next door has an effluent leakage problem that reveals itself in underwear with a “racing stripe” permanently staining it.  Or that ratty underwear might signal financial troubles.   I may think differently of the neighbor who hangs a pair of boxers on the line that has some skanky saying on the fly opening.   And I’d probably die laughing if I ever saw a pair of those charcoal lined undies on a neighbor’s line.   It’s OK to not tell the world everything about you and to keep some things private between the family.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • David May 5, 2015, 4:10 am

    When I was a child, my mother had a wooden drying rack set up in the basement for undergarments and socks. It looked like this one http://www.amazon.com/Madison-Mills-Wooden-Drying-Clothes/dp/B0009XEH8O

    It amazes me that anyone looks at other people’s clotheslines. I was raised that you just didn’t pay attention to certain things when they belonged to other people. So, no staring into the neighbor’s yard or windows, no looking at their laundry line, no peeking into their car.

  • Tracy W May 5, 2015, 4:43 am

    I don’t know the OP’s mum’s exact logic, but if you hang your little stuff on the outside lines then you risk having not enough space to hang your bedsheets, or towels or any other bulky stuff.

  • Gingerelle May 5, 2015, 5:10 am

    I completely agree that underwear, socks and other small items are just too much effort for the clothesline. I live in an area where putting out a line of clothes is almost a cultural thing – On a nice day you can see clotheslines for miles around, and the earlier you put out your clothes, the more hard-working and efficient you are considered. It’s almost a competition to some. I don’t really make a habit of scrutinizing my neighbours wash, and I don’t think others around here do either. They’re too busy judging how early you put it out.

    • AIP May 5, 2015, 1:03 pm

      I use the Ikea Pressa clothes hanger for my smalls, camisoles, socks, face and dish-cloths. They dry quicker, more evenly, it saves space on the line and I can bring them in off the line in one go. It’s bern out in a strong breeze and has stayed put. Very handy, and it looks like a cute octopus! I’ve had similar things in the 🙂

      (My apologies in advance to the Admin for the link. It’s for illustrative purposes only)

  • Stephbwfern May 5, 2015, 5:22 am

    Haha! I have just been reminded of an incident a few years ago. We lived in a flat with a little balcony and would try out clothes on a screen out there (there was a communal washing line out the back but our neighbour had a habit of “taking your load in for you” and never giving it to). Well, I got home from work on a day that had turned quite windy after lunch to find several pairs of my knickers blown across the front car park, onto my neighbour’s balcony, into next door. I took the screen inside before I left for work, after that.

  • Margo May 5, 2015, 5:37 am

    I don’t think the UK is stuffier than other countries – in my experience, I would say it is actually (in general) less so than the USA in a lot of ways.

    It’s also worth bearing in mind that the article you’ve taken this from is the Daily Mail, which is not a reliable source of news or comment, but which does like stirring people up.

    It is perfectly normal here in the UK to have an outside clothes line – there is no “outside clothesline = Poor” way of thinking. I have never come across, or heard of, anyone objecting to underwear on a line and to be honest, I think that objecting says far more about the person complaining than about anyone else. If anyone suggested that I, or mu neighbours, should not hang our our undies I would view that person as being (a) interfering (b) very rude (c) a bit weird and (d) in desperate need of something to occupy their time.

    Drying clothes outside is cheap, environmentally friendly and leaves them smelling nice with no need of artificial scents .

    I think if you (general) don’t want to see what your neighbours are washing then the obvious answer is to not stare at their clothes line.

    The only exception I can think of is that if you had a communal garden and were having a special event such as a party d wanted to ask whether the neighbours would mind not hanging out laundry on that particular day, but even then, I think it would only be reasonable if the gardens were very small and their washing line very close, or where it was for their benefit (e.g. letting them know you were having a bonfire or BBQ, so they could take the washing in so it didn’t smell of smoke)

    My initial reaction is that anyone who can’t cope with seeing perfectly normal stuff like a pair of knickers has a problem, and it is very definitely their problem not mine. I also think it is very unhealthy to imply that underwear is either inherently shameful or inherently sexy.

  • Shannan May 5, 2015, 6:44 am

    I think if i had a clothesline, I’d just dry my intimate apparel inside…

  • Kat May 5, 2015, 7:04 am

    Can men hang their undergarments, or is this just a lady thing?

  • KimB May 5, 2015, 7:38 am

    Today’s post has inspired me to start hanging my clothes again. It’s warmer now. (I’m Canadian).

    So much better for the environment and one’s underwear is no one else’s business.

  • viviennebzb May 5, 2015, 8:16 am

    I believe many would benefit from taking up a hobby that did not include scrutinizing the minutiae of others. My goodness…have they nothing at all productive to do? Maybe some laundry?

  • Kara May 5, 2015, 8:16 am

    Eh. I line or rack dry everything, weather permitting of course.

    My own personal criteria on what to hang outside vs what to put on the rack inside goes like this – Could it be bleached or otherwise damaged by the sun? Is it small and light enough that a stiff breeze could carry it away? Would it be particularly attractive to birds? Does it have to be “laid flat to dry” per care instructions? Anything that gets a “yes” answer to those questions (really shiny stuff, anything with sequins, lace doilies, anything silk, hankies, very bright patterns, some vintage items, stockings, “fancy” bras, most panties….) goes on an indoor rack where it is safe. Everything else goes on the outside line.

  • technobabble May 5, 2015, 9:36 am

    My grandmother told me a story about the first week she and my grandfather moved in to their first home together as a married couple. Grandma did the wash – the first load of laundry in the new house, and hung them out to dry in the backyard. Several hours later, she went back out to collect it, and somebody had stolen all her brand new bras and panties that she had purchased as wedding lingerie (the rest of the clothes were just fine). Sixty years later, and she is still mad about it.

    • AnaMaria May 7, 2015, 8:51 am

      I don’t blame her! Being a victim of theft leaves one feeling violated enough- but wedding lingerie?! That’s like having a private journal or collection of love letters stolen, only much, much creepier!

  • Roslyn May 5, 2015, 9:41 am

    Everyone’s idea of beauty is different, but I find one of the most beautiful sites is the perfectly neat and tidy Amish farm with the yard peppered with colored blooms, white washed barn and that magnificent rotary clothesline that is just out the back door at a nice height….but then stretches up, up, up over the drive to the top peak of the barn filled with fresh laundry in the breeze.

    I come from an upbringing of menstruation shame as well. I was always to wash my own undergarments and keep them well hidden from the men of the house (my grandfather and brother). We hung our laundry out the back door, but all intimate items were on the wooden drying rack that was placed outside, just out the door and out of view of anyone driving by. The nearest neighbor was a mile away, but that is how my Grandmother did it.

    • admin May 5, 2015, 1:44 pm

      I have yet to see an Amish clothes line with underwear on it.

      • mark2 May 6, 2015, 1:12 pm

        Here the amish put it on a small round rack that attaches to the line, very efficient and less revealing.

  • AnaMaria May 5, 2015, 10:04 am

    My mom and I were always up in arms about clothesline/dryer use when I lived at home- we live in the midwest and only have a few months out of the year where it is warm enough to line dry clothes, and my mom was adament that we did NOT touch the dryer during those months because of the wasted energy (and our clothesline was big enough that you could wash your sheets and a weeks’ worth of clothes and hang everything with room to spare, and there were four people in our house so it was doable). The problem arose when my allergies were becoming worse and worse, and a friend who was an eye doctor told me that line-dried sheets and towels should be tossed in the dryer for five minutes after line-drying to kill off any pollen or mold spores that they might have picked up on the clothesline. My non-allergy suffering mom threw a fit every time I ran the dryer for those few minutes, even though my dad (who does have allergies) backed me up and said it was necessary for my health. Needless to say, putting socks or underwear in the dryer “because it’s embarrassing” was not going to happen on my mom’s watch.

    I finally came up with a system where I would put my sheets on the line closest to my neighbor’s house (the clotheslines were in the sideyard between our houses) and pants, shirts, and towels facing our house (so my dad and brother had less of a view of my underoos- yes, they were family, but still not something you want to look at when you have a teenage child/sibling) and hung all of my “intimate” apparel in the middle line where it was less visible. If someone other than my family saw it, they would have to be looking pretty hard!

    • hakayama May 5, 2015, 4:32 pm

      Interesting point on the allergens. I’ll remember for sufferers. However, for you, I’d suggest consumption of LOCAL honey daily. It works as a gentle inoculation against pollen.
      It does not have to be warm for clothes to dry. Even if they freeze on the line, SUBLIMATION takes place: ice (water in solid state) evaporates without going through the liquid state.
      A short tumble softens the fabrics, so even towels and socks are nice to the touch.

      • AnaMaria May 7, 2015, 8:48 am

        I’ve heard of the local honey thing- I just moved to a new area, so I need to figure out when the farmer’s markets are open and get some! It’s supposed to be an exceptionally bad allergy season this year!

        And I’m sure things would dry in the cold, but, if it’s 30 degrees below zero (which happens in Jan/Feb over here!) the electricity needed to run the dryer is worth it!

  • Lady Anne May 5, 2015, 10:41 am

    We have an electric dryer, but I prefer to use my “solar powered” one as much as possible. I hang my sheets and towels on the outside lines, as they are the longest and strongest, and put the various smaller items on the inside. I always try to hang things that belong together in the same place – my sweatshirts and turtlenecks, hubby’s T-shirts, etc. One reason for this is that I can start taking things down and place them in the basket so that the last things to go into the closet are on the bottom and the first things are on top. This means tea towels and dish clothes, which go in the kitchen, are on top, and then the various clothing items, and finally sheets and bath towels.

    Another reason for putting the undies in the middle is the “disgraceful” way my husband hangs them on the line. He flips his tighty-whities over the line and uses one pin, and hangs my panties the same way. It took me a long time to decide a) he his helping without being asked, and b) the clothes get just as dry that way as they do when I hang them “properly”.

    But yes, folks who worry about how you hang up your laundry need a new hobby.

  • April Obe May 5, 2015, 11:15 am

    I lived in a tiny flat by myself. It was laundry day and I had strung a clothesline across my living room (drying racks cost 10 euros, which isn’t much but I was poor and every euro was budgeted) and my landlord decided to pay an unexpected visit. I was moving out soon so he had found someone who wanted to look at my apartment. They were standing on my porch asking if now was okay. I said, “Uh… not really?”

    He then explained it was the only day that the man was in town for a while. He said it was okay if the house was “a bit messy.” I thought… okay. And let him in.
    The embarrassment of those men was indeed hilarious. My landlord never sprung on me again!

  • just4kicks May 5, 2015, 11:53 am

    This reminded me of a scene from “The Goodbye Girl”.
    “….And, I don’t like the panties drying on the rod!!!”

  • Weaver May 5, 2015, 12:27 pm

    This comment is the sort of comment that might come off as a bit snarky, so I’d like to preface it by saying that there is honestly no snark intended!

    I’m a bit baffled by the comments that mention the display of a clothesline being an indicator of income, and therefore a source of shame?! When I was very young, my parents couldn’t afford a tumble dryer, so my mum used a clothesline for all our clothes. Many years later, my mum has a tumble dryer which she mainly uses for towels and the like. She prefers to hang the rest of her washing on the clothesline because a) it saves the electricity bill and b) it’s better for the environment. She uses a rotary clothesline which is in full view of her neighbours on either side, and hangs everything on it from underwear to jumpers. She also often nags me to use my own tumble dryer less, and my clothesline more (one of the reasons I prefer not to do laundry when my mum’s visiting, ha!)

    My mum is pretty much the opposite of an exhibitionist, as am I, and between us we’ve never lived anywhere where hanging your undies on a line (whether in view of your neighbours or not) would be considered even slightly odd. We’ve covered most of the South Coast between us, plus parts of Wales, parts of the Midlands, London, and parts of Yorkshire. In all of those places, hanging out your washing to dry is just something that everyone does. No-one bats an eye.

  • Mojo May 6, 2015, 2:41 am

    My washing line starts behind the conservatory, then goes out across the garden in full view. Without thinking, I find myself putting the ‘smalls’ on the hidden section, and the rest out on the main line. It must be ingrained in my British DNA!

  • Cherry91 May 6, 2015, 1:55 pm

    We have a round washing stand that rotates with the wind and has several levels inside. As a rule I put undergarments in the inner levels so they’re blocked from view by other items of clothing as we have teenage/young adult neighbours on both sides. Also, as they’re smaller, underthings don’t need as much direct wind and sunlight to dry.

  • FunkyMunky May 6, 2015, 5:09 pm

    I’m Australian, and on the ‘hang them outside’ train. I DO usually hang them on the inside of my rotary line, but that’s to save the bigger outside lines for sheets and other large items. In a public situation (eg on an extended holiday with communal lines and you wash yourself) I have put underwear on a smaller rack at my lodgings, but that was due to an experience where I had a lot of my clothes stolen; having underwear stolen adds an extra creep factor.

    That being said, I am a burlesque dancer. I have zero compunctions about people seeing my underwear or me in them.

  • Jo Bleakley May 8, 2015, 10:02 pm

    Also Australian. My underwear goes on the inside of the line…..for the simple reason that that’s where the shorter wires are (Hills hoist) and it’s more practical to put smaller items there.

    As far as whether it’s ‘proper’ to put underwear on an outside line, seriously? Out of all the things to be bothered about in the world, some people pick this? Wow. Westernised humans wear underwear. We all know this, it’s not new or surprising. Such things also need to be washed and dried. This is also not new or surprising. It’s much better to save electricity and line dry if you can. I have inside clothes racks for the winter, but I hate using them. They’re annoying and cluttering. There’s no way I’d use them JUST for underwear.

  • Mitzie Brisk May 20, 2015, 4:17 am

    My grandmother, born in 1905, always hung her substantial underwear on the outside line. Inside pillowcases. She would be horrified at my brazen display of unpillowslipped knickers and bras.

  • Mabel May 21, 2015, 9:44 pm

    I don’t hang my clothes out (and I shouldn’t hang my sheets but I LOVE the scent) because I have allergies and they suck up all the pollen in a ten-mile radius. >_<